The eleventh installment in URC Psalmody’s Introduction to the URC/OPC Psalm Proposal
The Lord by His word has created the heavens;
By breath of His mouth made the stars come to be.
The depths of the ocean He heaps up together,
And puts in a storehouse the waves of the sea.
Amidst a season of thanksgiving, this rousing new setting of Psalm 33, which the Psalter Hymnal Committees hybridized from the Scottish psalter Sing Psalms and The Book of Psalms for Worship, will reinvigorate you to give thanks for the abundant manifestations of the Lord’s steadfast love.
Even though the tune ASH GROVE does not appear in the blue Psalter Hymnal, it is well-known in connection with the Thanksgiving-time hymn “Let All Things Now Living” (#453 in the gray Psalter Hymnal). Frequent running lines throughout the vocal parts (especially the bass) impart this tune with an extraordinary sense of energy. Sing Psalm 33 at a rousing tempo fitting for its lively expressions of praise.
- 11/1: stanzas 1,2
- 11/8: stanzas 2,3
- 11/15: stanzas 4,5
- 11/22: all
- 11/29: all
Source: stz. 1 adapted from Psalm 33 in Sing Psalms; stz. 2-5 from Psalm 33C in The Book of Psalms for Worship
Tune only: Revised Trinity Hymnal 125
Themes for Studying Psalm 33
- Why praise is fitting for the upright (vv. 1-3), namely:
- The Lord’s character (vv. 4-5)
- The Lord’s creation (vv. 6-9)
- The Lord’s providence (vv. 10-12)
- The Lord’s omniscience (vv. 13-15)
- The Lord’s omnipotence (vv. 16-19)
- The Lord’s steadfast love (vv. 20-22)
Seeing Christ in Psalm 33
As the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ shares all the attributes of God that are praised in this psalm. He is upright, faithful, and just; the Creator of the universe (“All things were made through him,” John 1:3); the King of the nations; and the Savior of his people. He is the ultimate manifestation of the “steadfast love” of the Lord (v. 5), and it is he who delivers our souls from death (v. 19). Even as we currently enjoy the blessings of the salvation Jesus has provided, we also look forward to the day when the desire of v. 8 is fulfilled, when “at the name of Jesus every knee [bows], in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10). It is superlatively fitting (v. 1) to praise God for the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Applying Psalm 33
- Who are the righteous (v. 1)? How are they righteous (cf. Heidelberg Catechism LD 23, Q&A 60)?
- In today’s context, who are the members of the “blessed nation” (v. 12)?
- Have you ever looked to a “false hope” for salvation, as the psalmist mentions (v. 17)?
- How does trusting in the Lord make your heart glad (v. 21)?
When the Psalmist says that all our blessedness rests in the fact that the Lord is our God, he points us to the fountain of divine love as the only source that could be desired to make life happy. For God to stoop down to accomplish our salvation, protect us under his wings, provide for our necessities, and help us in all our dangers, hinges entirely on his adoption of us. But lest we should think that these blessings arise from our own efforts and work, David directly teaches us this: only from the fountain of God’s gracious electing love are we counted as the people of God.
—paraphrased from Calvin’s commentary on Psalm 33:12
West Sayville URC
Long Island, New York
(A PDF version of this post, formatted as a bulletin insert, is available here.)